The village, which is located in the heartland of the Mandinka, one of the largest ethno-linguistic groups in West Africa, and descended from the great Malian Empire, did not have a Quran school. So before beginning boarding school, Ousman and his classmates had to build the mud brick structure by hand, laying the foundation for an education that took him all the way to Georgetown University in Qatar.
He finished memorizing the Quran in two and a half years, and then joined his siblings at the local school. However, it was his Quranic studies that continued to play a definitive role in his education. With only a year left of high school, a local Gambian man held a Quran recitation competition for the students. The prize? A fully paid scholarship to The Institute of Religious Studies for Boys, run by Qatar’s Ministry of Education.
After graduating, he found himself in a quandary. “I had written and oral Arabic skills, but I needed to work on my English skills to go to college,” he recalled. The only solution was to attend the Academic Bridge Program (ABP) at Qatar Foundation, but as he bluntly put it, “I had no way to pay for it.”
As it turned out, a way forward opened at the masjid (mosque) when after prayers one day, Ousman realized that a Qatari man had accidentally walked away wearing his identical-looking shoes. The ensuing laughter and shoe exchange led to a deeper discussion about Ousman’s education dreams, and eventually, the generous offer to pay for his first semester at ABP. His hard work and dedication inspired others to support him along the way, and he eventually applied and was accepted to GU-Q.
As his own academic dreams came true, his thoughts always returned to the school that started it all, and he made plans to help renovate the school once he graduated and began work. However, at the end of 2018, he heard that the school would not last through the rainy season. Realizing that the time to help was now, Ousman started contacting friends at GU-Q, in Doha, and beyond. “My plan was to raise 100,000 Qatari Riyals to build a brand new school.”
Through personal donations from friends, he collected 60,000 Qatari Riyals, more than enough to start construction. “This Ramadan, I flew back to Gambia, and helped build the foundation. Once finished, the school will have electricity, room for 200 students, girls and boys, a septic tank for the bathrooms, and outside, a water pump for ablution.” Ousman will graduate this year from GU-Q and hopes to take his current role as education youth advocate volunteer at Education Above All to the next level.
Source: The Peninsula